Facebook removes Russian, Iranian networks

Facebook on Monday said it had removed four networks from its social networking platforms that were run by Iranian and Russian groups seeking to influence elections in the run-up to the U.S. 2020 presidential vote.

In a statement, the company said it was working hard to stamp out “coordinated inauthentic behavior” and had closed down three Iranian groups and one from Russia that were operating in the U.S., North Africa and Latin America.

“As part of our effort to counter foreign influence campaigns, this morning we removed four separate networks of accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and Instagram for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior,” the statement said.

“We have identified these manipulation campaigns as part of our internal investigations into suspected Iran-linked inauthentic behavior, as well as ongoing proactive work ahead of the U.S. elections.”

The joint statement was attributed to Katie Harbath, Facebook’s public policy director for global elections, Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy and other senior members of the California-based technology firm.

“We took down these networks based on their behavior, not the content they posted,” the statement added.

“In each case, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.”

In the past year, Facebook has taken down 50 networks worldwide, many ahead of major democratic elections, the statement said. The firm is also working harder to protect the accounts of candidates and elected officials.

“As we’ve improved our ability to disrupt these operations, we’ve also built a deeper understanding of different threats and how best to counter them,” the group said in a statement.

U.S. investigators have alleged that Kremlin-backed Russian trolls and hackers used Facebook and other social media platforms to swing the 2016 election in the favor of property tycoon Donald Trump, who is now president. Moscow denies this.
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